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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Ack! Yes, I am still alive/here/sewing. Yes, I am still doing Me-Made-May (though I have been dreadfully bad at obtaining photographic evidence – more on that later). And although I had all last week totally off, as in a whole week between ending my old job and starting my new one, I still felt like I had no time! I’m not sure why I was totally unmotivated to post last week, but I did sew some stuff at least. More on that later too. For now, I just need to catch up a bit and share this dress that I made during my last week at my old job:

It’s another of the ubiquitous Cynthia Rowley designs, Simplicity 2406. The idea to make this dress suddenly sprung fully formed, from, I don’t know, the head of Zeus or something, a couple months ago. I honestly think this pattern wore me down – when I first saw it I remember thinking, “what is with those sleeves?” and dismissing it as a crazy thing I would never like. But it kept popping up, on blogs, on Pattern Review, every time I went to the Cynthia Rowley section of the Simplicity website… and then when I saw this fabric online at FFC I just knew it was for this dress. A big part of the fully formed dress idea was the decision to wear it for graduation at work (my students’ graduation, not mine), which would also be my last day there. That idea stuck with me all through making it, all the way until about two hours before graduation began, when I decided that the hot weather and the amount of hugging tall people I would be doing made wearing my Lonsdale dress more practical. So this dress was orphaned as quickly as it was conceived. But you know, I really do like it a lot (the pictures are actually what won me over completely), so I’m sure I’ll find another occasion to wear it.

As for the pattern itself, hey, it’s another sack-dress-with-sash! This one, though, is I think a much better drafted sack than Vogue 1226, and there’s just the right amount of blousy without being puffy. The sash is very wide and ends up looking a lot like an obi belt, which I like. The neckline is gathered just the right amount, and I like the back slit detail, though I shortened mine to make it, you know, possible to wear a bra. I shortened the back facing to what I thought was a bra-safe length, but then I chickened out during construction and sewed it up even further than I initially planned. As it turned out my original guesstimate was correct and I could safely have had a larger slit, but oh well, at least the design feature is not completely lost. My covered button and its elastic thread loop, however, are totally invisible in pictures, but that is how the top is closed. (Point of interest: I can get the dress over my head with it buttoned, so I think if you wanted to eliminate the back slit entirely you would not need a zipper.)

All right, let’s talk about those sleeves. I’ve been seeing the cut-out shoulder on RTW stuff everywhere,  but it’s one of those design features that I’m just waiting for its moment to be over. I kind of like it, but I confess to feeling weird for liking something so quote-unquote on trend. I guess I like to be unfashionable? Anyway, I’m going with it here. Construction wise, I thought it was kind of funny that the sleeves are put together using the magic sleeveless dress lining technique, only in miniature. There’s an excellent visual tutorial here, because the Simplicity diagram is vague at best. You can see above that they do stick out a bit when I’ve got my arms down, but they do in the pattern photo too, and I’m okay with it. I imagine in a stiffer fabric they’d stick out more, and just generally be more annoying to construct too. This really is a lightweight-fabric type of pattern, I think.

Speaking of fabric, this one is amazing. I love that the print is lots of little dots, so it’s got the ditzy floral vibe without actually being a floral at all. But the fabric itself is heavenly. FFC listed it as an “Italian Cotton Shirting”, and it’s got a hand like a Liberty lawn. Light, soft, and so easy to press into submission! It did just what I wanted it to the whole time I was sewing, and reminded me why 100% cotton can be so nice to work with. It wrinkles though for sure, and it’s a little too sheer to wear without a half slip, but still. I want 100 more yards of this stuff. As it was, I only had 2 3/8 yards at 45 inches wide, and it was a real squeeze because for some inexplicable reason Simplicity has the sash listed separately from the dresses on the yardage chart and I missed it. But after much Tetrising of pieces and very careful cutting, I managed it by just making the sash a 1/2 inch less wide. Hooray!

The nitty-gritty details: I cut a 10 on top grading to a 12 on bottom. Like the Vogue, it’s a smidgen snug across the butt, but totally wearable. The length was perfect as drafted with a 1.25 inch hem (which is a little wonky because I’m still figuring out the intricacies of my blind hem stitch, but I pressed the heck out of it and it’s all right). I interfaced the facings because the fabric was so light, but I’ve been using the fancy Pro-Sheer Elegance interfacing from Fashion Sewing Supply and it’s quite nice and unobtrusive. I still hate cutting and fusing interfacing, though. And it all came together pretty easliy. Thanks for another good one, Cynthia!

My pattern review (and under the wire Natural Fibres Contest entry, natch) can be found here.

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So I knew jackets could take a long time to sew, but I guess I didn’t realise that for me, at least, that would just be because I took forever to sew it! This is the longest a single project has taken me, and not at all because it was difficult – it’s actually a pretty easy and fast pattern for a coat – but because procrastination got the best of me. I cut out this coat in January(!), I think, and it sat around cut out for  way too long (long enough for the Renfrew to be announced, ordered, received, and made up, in fact). Once I started actually sewing the jacket, it really only took me a couple weeks of intermittent sewing to get it done. Then I photographed it a couple weeks ago and am just now getting around to posting it… talk about an exercise in un-motivation! Anyway, here, at last, is my finished Sewaholic Minoru rain jacket:

I couldn’t resist the now-classic Minoru pose, but here’s how I’ll more likely wear it:

And yes, I did make it in the not-recommended plaid/check fabric. I have to say, I think it actually works pretty well. Tasia was concerned about the mis-match that would necessarily occur at the raglan sleeve seams, but, a) it’s pretty concealed by the collar, and the neckline gathers, and pretty much anywhere you put your arms, and b) the mis-match is so angled that it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to line up at all, so it doesn’t read as a mistake to me. But you all know that I don’t really mind mismatched seams, so your mileage may vary. (In fact, my side seams are mismatched, actually, despite my best efforts to match them, and I am untroubled.) I managed to match across the front (placket and zipper and placket, oh my) and that’s enough for me!

The fabric itself is a very lightweight nylon coating from FFC eons ago. I bought it for a McCall’s 5525 trench, but I’m really glad I used it for this instead. It was a real hassle to work with, actually, because it was so thin and slippery, and it frayed like mad. For the first time ever I wished I had a walking foot, because it would feed slightly unevenly when I was topstitching causing drag lines between the seam and the topstitching line. But luckily the fabric is generally crumply enough to mask this, and hopefully no one but me will be closely examining all my topstitching! To add a little weight to the jacket, I lined it in a sunny yellow stretch poplin I found at my crazy fabric store (I love this fabric, and I have some left that I have just now decided will become a Cambie dress!) I am happy with my fabric choices in the end, and I think the lightweight nylon works really well with the gathers in this pattern at the neckline and the awesome waist elastic.

In the side view, you can see a little lining peeking out of the side seam pockets I added using Amy’s tutorial/pattern piece. (And like Amy, I think I put them a little low since they hit the hem. Oh well.) I absolutely must have side pockets (I’m like Jack Donaghy trying to act – what do I do with my hands? Give me a coffee cup!), and there was no question I was going to add them, so thanks, Amy, for doing the hard work for me!

You can also see my hood zipper, which, despite being installed using exactly the same method as the one I use in my messenger bag tutorial for the inner zip pocket, and which I’ve done many times, still ended up really wonky here. I’m going to blame the fabric and the slightly-wrong-size waterproof zipper, and again assume that no one but me will notice. But it opens to reveal:

The hood! In general I’m not a things-on-my-head person at all (clearly my hair doesn’t like it), but for a raincoat I think a hood is necessary, and may actually get some use when I forget my umbrella (which is almost always). I also think I like the way the collar lays with the hood out better, which makes me think that if I make this again in another fabric I’ll omit the hood.

And this is probably how I’ll wear it most – open, hood out, hands in pockets. As you can see in the last picture, the zipper is not the best. It is hard to start and tends to open itself from the bottom already. It’s a “waterproof” zipper from Jo Ann, and while I like the smooth surface and it goes well with the jacket fabric, it’s not actually great at, you know, being a zipper. Hopefully it’ll not fail entirely for a long while, even if it stays a nuisance.

Some thoughts on the pattern itself: this is a great jacket that, as many have noted, really fills the not-fancy-but-not-sporty women’s jacket void. I actually can see myself making another one of these in a more-recommended fabric like twill. I like the shape of it, and the elastic waist is genius. It’s my first jacket ever, so I can’t really comment on how hard it is compared to other jacket patterns, but I will say that it didn’t include any techniques that I was unfamiliar with from sewing bags, for instance. The instructions are clear but brief, and there’s a few steps packed into every instruction, so read carefully before moving on! Of course, nothing’s clearer than the sewalong, so be sure to check that out. Even though I didn’t sew along, I did go back and read the posts for certain steps I needed to clarify for myself. Some of the construction things seem easy in concept but were really fiddly and kind of challenging in execution; for example, I had a terrible time lining up the shell and lining to stitch in the ditch under the collar, and my lining ended up a little bigger than the shell, so I had to take a tuck in the lining when I hemmed. The only real fit adjustment I made was to take an inch off the cuff elastic – after making up one cuff, it was so loose that it didn’t feel like a cuff at all, and I almost couldn’t tell it was gathered. On sizing overall, I cut a size 6, grading out to an 8 in the waist only. I probably should have made an 8 on top too, since I learned from my Renfrew that the Sewaholic patterns seem to have narrower shoulders than I have, but the extra ease from just being a coat makes the 6 fine. If I wanted to ride my road bike in it, or wear anything thicker than a long-sleeve tee under it, though, I’d definitely need an 8 in the shoulders. Here’s the link to my pattern review.

So hooray, my first ever coat is finished! It’s funny, it actually doesn’t feel like the huge accomplishment that I thought my first coat would be – probably because the pattern is actually simpler than some dresses I’ve made. I know this coat will have a happy home in my wardrobe during the rainy season, which is, of course, over until October (hopefully! I hate rain). But this fall, man, I’ll be happy I finally got around to making it!

I had no plans to make this dress last week. My reason to sew something varies wildly project to project, week to week, day to day – sometimes I feel like I should sew up stash, sometimes I’m just randomly excited about a pattern or fabric and I must. make it. now., sometimes I have a deadline of some kind. And obviously, I work fastest when there’s more than one reason to get it done. Such was the case with this dress. I really enjoy the contests over at Pattern Review, mostly because they focus my random energy into making something specific, but are loose enough that I can still get creative (I imagine that’s the reason they have them, so well done PR). I wanted to enter the “Best of” Patterns contest, but when I took a look through the lists of possible patterns I realised that I had made and reviewed all the patterns I already owned (I mean, the point is that they’re good patterns, after all), so I started brainstorming which of the remaining patterns I could buy and make up from stash fabric in less than a week (and that I’d want to wear, too!) and I came up with Vogue 1226, a simple but cute sack-dress-with-sash. I had in the very bottom of the Stash Monster’s belly an awesome Italian print cotton and matching solid contrast fabric from my first visit to Mood LA two and some change years ago, when I first thought that maybe I could start sewing clothes. It’s lovely fabric, but I bought it for McCall’s 5654, a sort of comically bad pattern that I bought basically because I liked the fabric in the envelope photo, without thinking about what an epic mistake the style would be for my shape (or anyone’s shape, really – this pattern has terrible reviews). So the fabric languished in the pile, waiting for the right pattern. That’s two motivations, and then the third popped up in the form of a Girls Night Out with some work friends last night, and the triple-threat of reasons to sew resulted in my completing this dress in two days!

I will say that this pattern is exactly what it seems to be: a blousy sack dress with a nice pleated neckline that absolutely must be belted (I have no photographic proof, but trust me when I say that it looks like a mod 60s nightgown without the sash). I’m not over the moon about this pattern, but it is well drafted and quite easy, which I suppose won it its “best of” status.

Fit-wise, I made a 10 on top grading to a 12 at the hip. The top fits well, and it’s a smidgen tight across my hips/butt but not enough to need to let it out. What I just realised is that in this picture as well as the envelope picture the use of the (huge!) pockets hides the fact that there is so much balloony-outy fabric at the midsection it’s not even funny. The pattern pieces are sightly egg-shaped, so it’s clearly intentional. A little blousing out on top of the belt is great, but there’s too much poofiness in the stomach area for it to be super flattering. Luckily I love pockets and will probably have my hands in them much of the time – problem solved.

The one fit issue I did have was that the back neckline gaped a ton. I’m sure this is because I have the dreaded “round back” or whatever, as I usually taper in at the center back zipper on dresses with high back necklines, but this is the first time I’ve had to take a back neck dart. I actually made an inverted pleat at center back, taking out over an inch! I just made it with the back and back facing together, since I wasn’t about to rip out the facing and pleat it separately. Here’s a picture of the pleat – I think it actually works well as a design feature to compliment the front pleating and the overall blousiness of the dress.

I also obviously added the contrast band at the bottom, since I had the contrast fabric and I thought it could use something to accentuate the mod-ness of the funky print. I actually made up the whole dress at the drafted length first to see how long I wanted it and how big a band that would require, and it turned out that the unhemmed length was just about perfect (take note, this dress is drafted short!). I cut a 6 inch tall strip of blue for the band using the bottom of the front and back patterns (a 4 inch band, 1 1/2 inches for the hem, and 1/2 seam allowance) then I cut 4 inches off the bottom of the dress and sewed on the band. One of my side seams doesn’t match for some reason (actual reason: only 30 minutes until I had to leave for Girls Night), but I don’t tend to care about those sorts of things. I made a machine blind hem. The blue fabric is a bit heavier weight than the fashion fabric, but I think that works to weigh down the skirt a little and keep it from being too floaty.

In the end I’m happy with this dress, and glad this fabric found a home, but I can’t say I was interested in making it outside of the deadlines I set for myself. There are a lot more practical things I could have made instead, but this jumped to the top for, ultimately, pretty thin reasons. I need now to figure out how to motivate myself this much for everything I want/need to make… so, Pattern Review, could you please have a contest for whatever it is I’m interested in making at any given moment? Cool, thanks.

My review (and contest entry, right under the wire) is here.

Wow, May is progressing at a frantic pace, and I have had even less time than usual for blogging! I have been keeping up with Me-Made-May in the sense that I’ve worn a me-made item every day so far, though I have been a little spacey about taking pictures every day. Rather than shoot a plain ol’ posed shot every morning, I’ve been trying to photograph the outfits in the wild, so to speak. Hopefully that’s more interesting, but it’s also been way easier to forget to do it. Anyway, here’s a recap of the month so far:

Days 3 and 4:

     

Day 2 was the first with no photo – off to a good start there – but rest assured I wore this dress, the Butterick Muse cowl dress in teal doubleknit. I made this last January and it’s a fantastic cool weather work dress that I wear all the time.

Day 3 brings a blurry photo of wearing my stripey Renfrew while barbecuing (I’m making this salad, which is pretty much my favorite summer salad ever). I do like this shirt a lot, but it’s still kind of annoying to wear due to the non-stretchiness of the bottom band. I’ve got another version of this pattern in my head to make soon(ish), plus now maybe a sleeveless one (thanks to Andrea‘s inspiring Renfrew dress!).

Day 4 was my new Boden twist top knock-off, worn here posing for pictures for the upcoming reveal of my FINISHED MINORU! Consider this a sneak peek, and I’ll try to get it written up this weekend… or sometime. I did not wear the Minoru all day since it was swelteringly warm (finished raincoat rain prevention successful!), but the twist top was great all day. Also in the imaginary queue: more Simplicity 1916s.

Days 5 and 6:

     

Day 5 I wore my favorite Farmers’ Market dress to, yep, the market and then to work. Higher on the make next list is more of these dresses, McCall’s 5893. They’re super easy to make and wear. Also in this picture are a ton of avocados in the orange bag and some rhubarb, tomatoes and cilantro (among other things) in a bag I made from a t-shirt I got when I rode the Windmill Century last summer. I love the t-shirt bag, but believe it or not I’m having a hard time finding appropriate t-shirts to cut up to make another one.

Day 6 I hosted a taco feast for several friends, for which I wore my wearable muslin of Butterick 5181. I vaguely remember deciding that there was something wrong with this dress when I made it, but I sure didn’t notice anything on Sunday – it was great and perfect for hosting an, um, seis de mayo party.

Days 8 and 9 were more no-picture fail days. On Day 8, a day off from work, I wore my maroon McCall’s 6347 for lounging around the house, and my Simplicity 2369 for running an errand. Day 9 saw me pull out my trusty Vogue 1224 – man I love that dress. I’m sure it’ll show again and I’ll get a fresh picture of it then.

But here are my last two pictures, days 7 and 10:

     

Can you guess where I was on day 7? Yep, that’s Disneyland! More specifically, the line for Small World. I just had to pose with this topiary moose – it’s the epitome of randomness. The dress is my Simplicity 2443. Who says you can’t wear a dress to an amusement park? This one was perfect, just the right weight for the warm-but-not-hot weather on Monday and with a nice weight in the skirt to keep it from blowing up on the wilder rides (which at Disneyland is not very wild at all – I don’t think I could get away with a dress at, say, Six Flags). We had a fun but long day, since we drove down, did both parks, and drove back all in one day!

Day 10 I wore my pink spotty twist-neck top to work and then to the special movie theatre screening of the live This American Life show. Sorry for the terrible dark iPhone picture, but it turns out it’s hard to take a picture in a movie theatre, even at the end of the show. If you’re a fan of Ira Glass and friends and you missed the screening, I believe they’ll be putting up a radio-ized version of the show on their website soonish that you can listen to there or grab the podcast (my preferred consumption method). It was a really great show, about twice as long as one of their regular radio shows and with a lot of fun visuals. The modern dancing was particularly cool, as was the interactive OK Go performance and Mike Birbiglia’s short film with Terry Gross (NPRgasam!) Hopefully the visual version will be up somewhere too eventually.

So that’s my first week-and-some-change of Me-Made-May – the fun continues, and I’ll do another round-up next weekish. So far so good!

 

Oh dear, it seems another new month is upon us, and with this one comes another self-stitched challenge!

Yes, as usual I’m extremely late to the party (and I’ve missed Karen’s pyjama party entirely! I’ll have to have my own, solo pj bash soon – I need new summer pjs, stat). But I do want to participate, mostly because since September I’ve been getting lazier about wearing the things I’ve made all the time, and I want to get back in the habit. What I want to really concentrate on this month is making real everyday garments, and figuring out what I wear and want to wear so I can sew with that in mind. I imagine there will be many repeats of items I wore in September, so I’ll probably post less MMM-only posts than I did for SSS. I’ll do full posts for new makes, but probably some kind of collagey post every several days for when I’m wearing things you may have seen before. Mostly I imagine I’ll be winging it – I’m feeling rather scattered lately.

Which brings me to my other news: I’m changing jobs at the end of the month. This has been a big, scary decision for me, but I think it’s the right one. I’ve accepted a position at a more local theatre, which means leaving the company I’ve been with for the last six years. As hard as that is, I’m excited to be reducing my commute from an hour each way to less than 10 minutes (or 20 minutes by bike! yes, it’s bikeable!), and the new position will, I think, be somewhat to substantially less weekly hours as well. The new company also has the added bonus slash complication that it is dark in the summer, which means that after my first show there in June, I will be unemployed until it starts up again in September. The upshot of which (as applicable to this blog, anyway) is way, way more time to sew. Do I need to change my blog title? I’m excited to have a summer off, as it’s been years since I’ve been available to, say, attend summer weddings, or lay on a beach, or eat watermelon all day, or whatever it is normal people do in the summers. I’m also excited to have time to (hopefully) sew through my stash (which I’ll need to be doing, since with no income I’m forbidding myself from buying any fabric… that costs more than 99 cents a yard, anyway).

So the month of May for me is an ending and a beginning, with a busy few weeks finishing at the old job, a week off, and then busy again starting new. So I don’t know that my concentration will be always on MMM, but I’ll try. One day at a time, right? So here’s what I wore today, appropriately both old and new – it’s the first knit top I made, and my second ever review on Pattern Review, but this is the first time I’ve worn it this year. It’s long sleeve, so it got passed over during our warm winter weather, but now that it’s quote unquote spring, the terrible gloom has set in and it’s colder than January was, so I pulled it out.

I like this pattern (McCall’s 6120, now out of print apparently), and I keep meaning to make a sleeveless version, but haven’t gotten around to it. The Simplicity I just used for my Boden knock off is very similar, but I do like the midriff band on this one. Into the queue it goes! That’s what the Me-Made-Months are about, right? Rediscovering the old and refining it for the new? I guess that pretty much sums up this May for me!